Coal coming through the Northwest + multimedia storytelling

The environmental news team I work with, EarthFix, won a bunch of awards for this year’s SPJ Northwest Excellence in Journalism contest. Yay us! We even took the top two spots for our special/enterprise online reporting on the proposed Northwest export projects and the anniversary of the Clean Water Act.

Though it wasn’t part of our 2012 Northwest coal coverage (we’ll submit the ongoing series again for 2013), our multimedia special Voice of Coal came directly out of the traditional news reporting the team had done. If you don’t live in the Pacific Northwest, let me tell you – these coal proposals are very controversial, pitting environmentalists against labor unions, public health officials and politicians against job creators, and folks on all ends of the spectrum. ‘Voices’ was our effort to bring real people’s voices and first-hand experience to the forefront, but always with the backdrop of well-reported journalism on the topic.

Though I don’t often have time to create content for EarthFix myself (I mostly do community engagement, events and social media), I had the opportunity to pitch in for this. Here are two audio slideshows I produced as part of the ‘Voices of Coal’ project:

It’s a pretty exciting time to be doing digital media and storytelling. We were very inspired by the Climate Wisconsin project for Voices of Coal. I’ve since seen some great interactive multimedia/transmedia projects (using video, audio, photos, text) including Black Gold Boom, about the big oil boom in North Dakota, and Reinvention Stories, looking at the identity crisis and ultimate efforts to reinvent the city of Dayton Ohio. Both those projects were part of some public media experiments called Localore. And of course there’s the epic, sublime experience of consuming Snow Fall: The Avalanche At Tunnel Creek. There you go. Now you’ve got several sittings worth of excellent transmedia storytelling to geek out on.

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A few moments

It appears I have a few moments of down time. Lilz is in phase two of her nap. Started in the crib. Then transferred to her low bed. She’s not the best napper, usually 45-60 minutes. But when I’m able to take the time and have the right timing to nurture her mid-day rest she will sleep for two hours. It feels nice and luxurious to take that time and yet she really needs it.

We’ve also taken some luxurious time off — from vacations.

From the moment Lilli came to us we were on the move. As an adoptive family, we didn’t have the traditional dynamic of mother recovering from birth/breast-feeding. As Mama and Daddy we were fortunate and able to really take turns and split duties and sleep equally. That also made it easy to travel.

baby in car seat

Lilli on her first road trip – to her new home in Portland at age 5 weeks. Not sure we even knew how to strap her into the car seat correctly.

She was born in Eugene, so our first road trip was literally the day of her placement, five days after we met her. We drove to Portland, to her new home. At three months Lilli was on her first plane ride, international at that, to Mexico. (Yes, she already has a passport with several stamps in it.) The trip was one we had already in the books before Lilli was born, before we knew of her existence. One of the reasons her birth parents chose us as adoptive parents was because they liked how we were always on adventures and how close we are to our families. So, this was the beginning of our family adventures with Lilli. She did great! Three months is a pretty easy age to travel with babe.

In her first year it seemed we were always venturing on the road or by plane or hosting visitors. A necessary predicament to see our far and not-so-far flung families.

One year in, as we celebrated her first birthday in October 2012 – which included an intense (and groundbreaking, wonderful) visit to Eugene to visit with some of Lilli’s maternal birth family – and then going into holiday season with more planned travel and hosting of visitors, we all started to feel a mild, but consistent sense of over-stimulation and under-sleeping. Only then did it occur to me that Lilli had not had a boring, routine month ever in her life. And as much as it was wonderful and adventurous and necessary, it was also necessary to pause the madness.

Matt and I had some serious talks about how to break our restless cycle. The lack of routine + constant travel was always a part of our marriage, with our family all over tarnation, and an underlying constant pressure to see each other. That feeling is especially heightened now because we are very close with our families and want our children to know their aunts, uncles and cousins well. But, I was starting to feel like I was on eggshells with Lilli’s sleep and routine. I wasn’t confident I was getting the hang of the parenting thing and I was worried I was not getting to know Lilli as intimately as I wanted. I didn’t have the, “ah I know what will work,” instinct when you know your kid so well. We were constantly in transition from travel/visits to normal. But what was normal?

We didn’t really have a normal. Which got pretty exhausting.

toddler travel

Mama trying to entertain toddler for the final leg of a long trip home.

So, we agreed to stop traveling after a trip to Las Vegas to see my family in mid January 2013. The deal was, we would not travel out of town until June – not even a weekend road trip. We would still host people who wanted to visit, but otherwise, we were staying put.

Though we ended our travel sabbatical a bit early (I had a work trip to Seattle in late April and we felt fam was ready to tag along) I’m happy to report that the experiment was, in a word, awesome. We managed to get Lilli on a very predictable routine, which then allowed us to vary it from time to time – to meet friends for dinner, or be out during the day near nap time – confident that we could get schedules back on track. We began (and often manage to continue) to do meal planning to maximize our food spending, cooking time and eat healthier. Matt and I have each motivated to go out for independent adult time with friends.

In June we’ll have our first major trip since January – a week long visit to Cleveland (including a nonstop red-eye flight – eek!). Should be fun, hectic, relaxing, exhausting. And then we’ll come home and start it all over again.